Transcript: Adjusting to the Challenges of Parenting After Birth
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Adjusting to the Challenges of Parenting After Birth and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: This week on First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m thrilled to be chatting with Dr. Diane Speier, who has been a birth and postpartum professional, both in the US and the UK. Diane has been helping parents make a smooth transition from pregnancy to parenthood for more than 40 years.
She is the author of Life After Birth, a Parent Holistic Guide for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester and in this episode you’ll hear her talk about her book and the accompanying Digital Doula app, which is designed for both Apple iOS devices and Android. This app follows the structure of the book and has additional sections and is regularly updated with new information and resources.
During our chat, you’ll hear Diane talk about the 8 keys for thriving in the fourth trimester, the first 3 months after birth, the use of energy medicine techniques that offer wonderful ways to take care of yourself, whether it’s balancing stress, increasing milk flow, or enhancing the body process with your little one, and so, so much more.
Hi Diane, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat, and thank you for joining me. I’m looking forward to our chat and to finding out all about your book. Can you start by telling us about yourself and your background?
Diane Speier: I’m a person that has many hats that I wear and the one that we are gonna focus on today is being a birth professional, but I’m also a psychotherapist and a hypnotherapist, and I’m also a celebrant and I create ceremonies for people. For today’s purposes, and because I’m just about to relaunch the publication of the book, let’s focus on my birth professionalism, for lack of a better word.
So back in the 1970s I had my first child in a hospital with a doctor in the traditional American way of doing things and it went well and I just thought to myself, I wasn’t happy with the rules that they had in the hospital and the lack of flexibility. So the second time around, I decided to have a baby in a birth center, which was a brand new concept in 1976, in the United States and it was staffed by midwives and it was such a different kind of environment for giving birth, and it was a wonderful experience. And then after that, it turned out that the midwife who was with me was a British midwife, and we had lunch after that and I said to her, you know, it seems that I have an innate understanding for birth and she told me about a teacher training that was going on in New York City soon after that and I enrolled in that and I started to train as a certified childbirth educator and very soon after I became a birth educator, I also started focusing on what happens after the baby is born. And I started running postpartum support groups for new mothers and their babies and then after that, after a few years of that, I started to run a mother and daily exercise class that focused in on what the mothers seemed to be wanting from those group experiences and they wanted to get back into shape, but they also wanted to find important ways of interacting with their babies.
And this is a class that ran for 20 years and having worked with parents in this way over so many years and then coming back into the academic world and getting my PhD in women’s studies, focusing on that work as a birth professional, I synthesized these different experiences and trainings and educations and pulled the best of what I think most new parents need to understand about what happens after the baby’s born. Now, most of the time there’s this great buildup and there’s lots and lots of preparation for the birth itself, but then nothing about what happens after the birth and over the years you’ll find lots and lots of books now about pregnancy, lots of books about birth, lots of books about parenting, but not too many that focus in on what’s happening to you after the baby is born, what kinds of changes are you going through, what kind of recovery are you having to deal with, how’s the relationship with your partner, are you having struggles trying to breastfeed your baby, are you understanding what’s involved in bonding and attachment? All of these things were the essence of what I put into the book.
The book is called Life After Birth, A Parent’s Holistic Guide for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester because, I mean, a lot of people survive, but I really wanna move the needle over into the thrive category, so that they have a positive experience during that time that they can harness the resources that they have that they’re not even aware of and one of the ways in which I’ve introduced something new I guess, that nobody else has done before, is that I’ve introduced energy medicine techniques and protocols that people can do for themselves. They’re not reliant on anybody else to do it for them, and that these have really useful practical ways of increasing energy levels and a variety of different things that can come from just benefiting from that. For instance, the very first section of the book is called The Fourth Trimester, and it focuses on the recovery and it focuses on what’s going on for the mother and what’s happening and what you should be aware of and because one of the things that happens I think a lot of the time is mothers think it’s just me that’s having this experience and it’s really important for them to understand that everybodys having this experience in their own little way, and they’re managing it in their own style, depending on who they are and what their personality is. So understanding that and understanding that also the baby’s going through a transition at that time and the partners going through a transition at that time and the energy medicine technique for that is called the daily energy routine. And there are versions of that on YouTube that you can find and it was created by Donna Eden and the training that I’m in the middle of doing for the certification is called Eden Energy Medicine.
And the daily energy routine is something that takes about 10 minutes and it’s very simple to do but it has a way of balancing your energy and there are so many different energy systems, like 9 systems in this and it touches on all of them. And so when women are dealing with the fact that they’re sleep deprived over a period of time. It could be one month, two months, three months, however long, that can interfere with your ability to think properly and all the rest of it. That’s just a part of the territory of newborn parenting. The daily energy routine can really work to increase energy levels. It’s good to do it every day cause those energy levels will still be depleted by the end of the day.
But here’s something that people can do for themselves that really can satisfy that need to feel a little bit more energized. And each section of the book, there’s six sections, has another set of energy medicine techniques to use that will benefit you and the baby and partners as well.
So I think I’m the only person that’s done that, and I’m feeling really good about that right now.
Helen Thompson: For first time mums who are just learning, it’s great to have somebody like you who can give them those tips. I also remember that when we talked at the beginning, you were talking about wellness and how you split that up.
Diane Speier: So the wellness is actually an acronym that I created and the W stands for ‘we’ and ‘we’ is about protecting the relationship. And I don’t think people realize how having a baby really impacts on the relationship and that 92% of couples will experience increased conflict in the first year after a baby is born.
So we really wanna focus in, or I feel it’s important to focus in on fostering and strengthening the couple connection. Right now I don’t think people understand that it is important to really protect that. It’s a stressful time and that’s another reason for using energy medicine techniques. You can bring down the level of stress that’s going on for all new parents no matter what. So that’s ‘We’. The second one is energy medicine. The ‘e’ in wellness is energy medicine, and that’s what I’ve just been talking about and having tools in your toolkit to use for various different purposes.
The first ‘L’ is called loving kindness and loving kindness really is more focused on the bond that’s being established between the parent and the baby, but also about taking care and loving yourself because a lot of times new mothers become really self-critical and I’m really wanting them to know that you don’t have to go down that path. You can be creating a sort of mindful awareness about creating the foundation of loving kindness, kindness and loving for that family.
Then the second ‘L’ is called less is more and I think there’s this notion that should be lots of stuff and lots of things and lots of visits and I’m really saying that in that fourth trimester, the most important thing to do is to get to know your baby. So you know, less stuff, less visitors, less interruptions for that, less paraphernalia that you’ve accumulated. We need to just sort of focus in on what really matters, and that’s the connection with the baby.
Then the ‘N’ is for the new normal, because a lot of parents are really wanting to get back to normal, which is really a flawed premise to start with. The normal’s changed now that you’ve had a baby. The baby is in your life and it takes up space and it takes up time and the normal has changed and the best thing you can do is to embrace that new normal. The new normal includes a different schedule. It means that you can’t just sort of go out to the movies if you want to.
There are changes in roles in how you interact with your partner. So many things are going on, so the new normal is something to be embraced. The second ‘E’ stands for expectations, and I think that’s something that really needs to be managed, if I can say that because people will come into their first experience of having a baby with unrealistic expectations or unhelpful expectations. And with expectation goes disappointment if it doesn’t go your way and disappointment unfortunately can be the trigger that spirals people down into postnatal depression. So I want to really help them understand that your expectations, if they’re helpful and they’re realistic, can really be a satisfying experience rather than a disappointing experience.
Then the first ‘S’ stands for self care, and that’s really like a buzzword these days. Self care, too many mothers are so busy feeding their babies that they don’t feed themselves and too many mothers are so busy, on that 24×7 schedule that they’re not attending to their own needs. They can hardly take a shower. There are so many other things that make it difficult for them to look after themselves. So it’s important to do that. Just like they say when you go onto an airplane and they give you the safety things, you really need to put your own face mask on before you put the mask on your child. So that’s what self care represents.
And the last one is support, because we need to understand that we are not supposed to raise our children all by ourselves in a nuclear family. We really were designed to have the the extended family involved and people in the community involved and I think in the 20th century we have a lot more relocation and changes. People find themselves in a new place without a support network and I think it’s really important to put that in place before the baby is born so that you know, you can call on people for different types of support and I think a lot of new mothers need that and they’re afraid to ask for it cause if they do, somehow they’ll be judged as not good enough. Or, you know, you should be able to work this out for yourself. Some notion about maternal instincts and all the rest of it.
So having that support, having people that you can turn to that can give you that kind of support and all of this is empowering. All of this, if we can tackle it and pay attention to it and it’s best if it’s done when someone’s still pregnant but even during the initial newborn parenting phase, you can be dipping in and out of the book to support that transition into parenthood.
Helen Thompson: I love the first one, the we, because I think that is so powerful to think about that because a lot of mums and dads, it is a complete change. It’s a completely new environment for both of the parents to go through and having that change, as you said can break or bring the parents together more. But it can break a relationship because the mother, as you say, if she doesn’t take care of herself, she’s not supporting her husband and her husband doesn’t know how to support her. So I think that is a key. The we, I think is a very powerful one.
Diane Speier: Yes and in fact in addition to the book we launch, I’m developing an online course based on the wellness paradigm that I just described and the first module focuses on the ‘we’. It’s called How to Baby Proof Your Relationship because when a baby comes, it really disrupts that twosome. You know, that diad of partnership and the partnership goes through a lot of changes and we are re-identifying ourselves now as not just an individual but as a parent and what does that mean and what does that bring up for them in terms of their own parenting experience and how will they deal with the division of labor? It should be and the reason for this is they need to take a look at what are the different tasks that they usually do in the household and ordinarily when you’re having a first child, maybe you’ve had a very egalitarian relationship in terms of the sharing of these chores or tasks or jobs or whatever you wanna define them as but you know, you did your share and he did his share, or whatever the partnership is, whether it’s same sex relationship or heterosexual relationship. Each person had a pretty good idea of who did what, but what ends up happening a lot of the time, especially with first time mums, is that the baby is born, maybe there’s some time together, maybe there isn’t but what ends up happening is the partner goes off to work, the mother stays home and ends up doing a lot more of the household work, the domestic work, in addition to all of this infant care, and there’s resentment start to grow from this. I’m doing all the work and you going off to work and resentments of course lead into that conflict statistic so we wanna avoid that.
And then who’s gonna do the infant care? Is that gonna be the mother’s job, is that gonna be the partner’s job. Or both, exactly but the thing is that what women are shocked by, when this happens is that they shift from this sort of equal relationship into what we call gendered stereotypes. There’s the mother doing this sort of domestic role and the partner going out and doing the breadwinner role, and it feels like a throwback to, you know, somewhere in the middle of the 20th century.
So this is one way of anticipating it and if you can anticipate that you can reduce perhaps the possibility that resentments will grow from the fact that one person feels, you know, put upon, because they’re doing all the work at home and the partner is not, partner is tired and not contributing to that. This puts ’em on alert, this prepares them for that reality and I really want them to avoid that reality because I want them to connect as a team. In fact, I use the word duet because each of them is gonna be singing a different tune, but if you put it together, they sing in harmony and that’s my objective in terms of alerting people to the fact that this is gonna change the nature of your relationship, if you can use these different ways of working together, you can really be on the same page and you won’t be blaming the other person cuz it’s stressful and we do that naturally. It’s almost human nature. If something is not going well and you made a mistake or something, we wanna blame another person but this is a way of avoiding that blame game that happens during a stressful time like the postpartum period.
Helen Thompson: Here in Australia we have a lot of parents that go back to work when their kids are still quite young. Now I’m not saying it’s good and I’m not saying it’s bad, but I think a lot of the time they put their 6 weeks old, 8 weeks old baby into childcare because they need to go back to work because they need to earn money to support the household and to me that’s supportive because it’s giving both parents the time to do what they want to do but what happens when the baby comes home at the end of the day? As you say, who’s taking care of them? They’re both gonna be exhausted after work, they’re both gonna be exhausted because their sleep deprived and they’ve had to get up to work.
Diane Speier: That’s an excellent example of that and It is unfortunate that women feel compelled to go back to work when it’s just six weeks old and sometimes it’s even less than that in the United States. They have a much better kind of maternity leave system here in the UK, I have to say and I got spoiled by it by watching people, daughters and stepdaughters having their babies and then listening. I have a niece in the States and she only got three months but three months is a long time for someone who’s only got six weeks and there’s a big section in the book about maternity leave, about parental leave.
Now, unfortunately, too often it becomes the mother’s role, even though she’s working and she’s only six weeks postpartum, she ends up doing the vast majority of the domestic work after she’s given birth. So this is an issue, but if there are ways that you can manage your energy and using a daily antigen machine might just refresh them enough to get through the evening and then start another day. There are ways of managing cortisol levels and other stress response things that I’ve incorporated into the section of the book called the dynamics of hormones and the stress response because if you’re dealing with this kind of stress, you wanna understand it and you wanna know if there are things that you can to, to take care of that and there are. So that’s the good news is there are.
Helen Thompson: Yeah and I think energy levels are good if you know how to deal with your energy levels, it really does help by just quickly diffusing and thinking, right, well this is how I do this and I think that’s really important. I know a bit about energy levels cuz I’ve done kinesiology and I’ve done brain gym and so I know a little bit about energy levels from that and I think having somebody like you who can explain that in more detail within your book, I think is very powerful.
Diane Speier: I think so too helen and every section has an energy medicine piece to it at the end of it, depending on what the subject matter is, there’s something that they can utilize on their own to address that. So there are different techniques they can use to manage their stress, there are certain techniques that they can do to increase their milk supply, there are things that they can do to increase the connection that they feel towards their baby in the bonding and attachment section.
So, you know, I’m really utilizing things that I learned that are simple things that anybody can do. You don’t have to have any kind of special skill, you can just do it. I mean, even just breathing, taking some time to breathe deeply is restorative in that sense. It does have a very impactful effect on the body, if you just tune in and breathe deeply for a while, it will calm you down. So, I really think it’s important and again, it was a synthesis of all these years, 40 plus years of working as a birth professional and then 10 years ago I was introduced to energy medicine.
I put it into the book, and now I’m learning even more protocols that I can add to the companion app that goes with it and that’s called Digital Doula 2.0. And so each of the sections in the app correspond to a section in the book and in the app, the links become live and I add more information as I get more information and so there’s even more information about maternity leave and gender equality and all these kinds of things in the app.
Helen Thompson: So if anybody wants to find your book or get in touch with you, how would they go about doing that?
Diane Speier: So the book is called Life After Birth: A Parent’s Holistic Guide for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester, and it’s available on Amazon. My website is DianeSpeier.com. I’m gonna spell that because of the tendency for people to misspell my last name. So it’s DianeSpeier.com and and in the app, Digital Doula 2.0, which was released in 2020 after the book was published just as the coronavirus started to impact on our lives.
And that’s available in the app store as well as Google Play and soon, there will be an online course called Eight Keys for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester for people who want an online course they can dip into, as it’s convenient. I think that’s the thing of the future, isn’t it?
There’s a whole section in the app. It’s not related to the book. It was an additional one we added called It Takes a Village, and that’s all about creating community for new parents.
Helen Thompson: So what tip would you give to a mum who is not able to attach to their baby?
Diane Speier: Well, I would suggest find out if there’s somebody around there that might be able to help and support her. She is like many other people, struggling with this very similar thing, not to condemn herself and not to judge herself harshly because self criticism is, when there’s something that’s going on that feels different than it should be we become very self-critical about that. So I’d say don’t, get help if you can. For people who may be spiraling down, they’re not even aware, get help, the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be healed because it is always treatable. Postnatal depression is always treatable. So get help and you’ll find yourself back on track sooner than later.
Helen Thompson: Thank you Diane for the lovely chat. I’ve actually really enjoyed speaking with you. So thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Diane Speier: You’re welcome. Very welcome.
Helen Thompson: Wow, Diane certainly shared many great tips and strategies during our chat. I highly recommend checking out her book and website, and I’ve included links in the show notes, which can be accessed at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/097.